by JP Richard, SJ&A
In the last issue, we talked about ConOps, the third of the five C’s of proposal preparation. To refresh your memory, the other four were: Compliance, Capabilities, Competition and Compelling. Let’s now move on to Competition.
It is critical for the proposal team to know who the competitors are for the contract. Are you competing against the incumbent contractor? Are there cost-cutting vendors trying to get the business? Are you the incumbent who might have gotten a bit complacent? If you don’t know who else wants the business, you risk losing it. Your response will be influenced by what you expect the competition to do, as well it should.
If you have been providing services or products to Federal agencies for some time, you probably know who also provides these services. If you are new to the Federal marketplace, you can check several contracts data bases, available at no cost, to see who has won certain types of contracts in your target agencies in the past. Federal contractors—particularly those concentrated in the Washington metropolitan area—are a small, tight-knit community who go to many of the same industry functions; there are few secrets. There is also a lot of migration from one firm to another in this industry, so you may have in your own organization people who have formerly worked for your competition. Make sure you track their experience and take advantage of this resident knowledge!
If there is a bidder’s conference prior to an RFP release, make sure you attend. An interested parties list, usually the attendees at the bidder’s conference, is typically made available by the issuing agency. It is not necessarily an accurate list of your potential competition, but it helps.
SJ&A suggests developing a Competitor Database: building, documenting, and maintaining your research intelligence about them. At the start of every proposal, review your data carefully and identify what their strengths and weaknesses are.
One way to deal with our competition in a proposal is to decide what their strengths are and make sure you address them in your own proposal, subtly pointing out why your approach is better than the competition. As well, you can exploit their weaknesses, such as developing a Risk Mitigation Plan where you show a potential deficiency and how your firm can overcome it. You must do it subtly though: “bad-mouthing” the competition may alienate reviewers who might have a bias toward them. It’s just not good form.
We seem to have covered the bases in getting our proposal organized by covering the four first Cs, but we haven’t discussed Compelling yet. That is indeed a nebulous term but we will explore what it means in the next issue.
If you would like to discuss ways in which we can support your proposal development needs, contact JP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 703-568-6417.